Statements on inciting violence are against the law

Statements on inciting violence are against the law

March 7, 2018   04:34 pm

- Government Information Department

To make statements or release publications intended to incite violence and / or engage in hate speech amounts to criminal conduct according to the laws of Sri Lanka and according to Section 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act, says Director General of Government Information Attorney-at-Law Sudarshana Gunawardhana.
 
Issuing a statement on Publishing Statements Inciting Violence Targeted Against Particular Communities, the Director General said that therefore all citizens, and especially media institutions, should ensure that they do not themselves incite violence or engage in hate speech in contravention of the laws of Sri Lanka, and that they do not publish such statements calculated to incite violence as aforesaid.
 
The full text of Mr. Gunawardana’s statement is as follows;
 
It is disturbing to note that statements inciting violence, especially targeted against particular communities, have been published / circulated on certain media, especially social media.
 
It should be noted that such incitement to violence is contrary to the fundamental duties (recognized by Article 28 of the Constitution) of all citizens to uphold and defend the Constitution and the law; to further the national interest and to foster national unity; to preserve and protect public property; and to respect the rights and freedoms of others.
 
To make statements or release publications intended to incite violence and / or engage in hate speech amounts to criminal conduct according to the laws of Sri Lanka and according to Section 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act. The relevant section states that “No person shall propagate war or advocate national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”
 
Similarly, the Prevention of Terrorism Act prohibits any person to “by words either spoken or intended to be read or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise cause or intend to cause commission of acts of violence or religious, racial or communal disharmony or feelings of ill-will or hostility between different communities or racial or religious groups.
 
The Penal Code also criminalizes the abetment of an offence (section 100) and recognizes that instigation of an offence would amount to abetment. Thus, instigation of acts of violence such as causing hurt and causing hurt with a dangerous weapon, etc. would amount to the abetment of such offences.
 
While the Constitution recognizes (subject to the imposition of lawful restrictions) the freedom of speech and expression including publication, these rights must be exercised in a responsible manner, with (among others) due regard for the rights and freedoms of others. The freedom of expression must also be exercised in a manner which does not amount to an incitement to violence / hate speech.
 
Therefore, all citizens, and especially media institutions, should ensure that they do not themselves incite violence or engage in hate speech in contravention of the laws of Sri Lanka, and that they do not publish such statements calculated to incite violence as aforesaid.

Sudarshana Gunawardhana
Attorney-at-Law
Director General of Govt. Information

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